Driving defensively means operating your vehicle in a constant state of awareness of all other vehicles around you and knowing what you can do to prevent accidents.
In a previous blog article we focused on 10 defensive driving techniques that, if followed by everyone, would greatly reduce the number of traffic accidents. Car accidents would rarely occur, or would cause less injury, if drivers left room for error, reduced speed according to road conditions, avoided distractions, and followed other common sense tips in the top 10 list.
But there is more drivers can do to avoid accidents. You might think “oh I’ve heard that before”. But hearing it before and focusing on it now to reduce accidents are two different things.
Five Rules for Driving Defensively & Preventing Car Accidents
1. Prepare for the worst
When a driver compensates for driver error on the part of others, the likelihood of accidents goes down. Leaving space between vehicles, quickly passing vehicles, moving over for vehicles that appear to be driving recklessly, always checking intersections to make sure it is clear before entering, are all part of preparing for the worst and doing everything possible to minimize risk. If the driver assumes driver recklessness will occur on the part of others, then they’re ready to act quickly when problems arise.
2. Obey Rules of the Road
Safe drivers follow the rules of the road, traffic signs, and all signals. Rules of the road exist for the sole purpose of keeping the roads organized and safe. Defensive drivers refuse to disregard rules of the road, making incomplete stops or otherwise driving recklessly. Following the rules of the road provides the most effective accident avoidance practice.
What are the rules of the road? They’re spelled out in all driver manuals given to new drivers. Most states spell them out in statutes and other regulations. Simple concepts make up these rules, like coming to a complete stop at a stop sign, making sure it is safe before entering an intersection or checking before changing lanes.
Believe it or not, using turn signals actually went to the Supreme Court of one state.
3. Share the Roadway
Defensive drivers make safe, courteous decisions and always share the road, yield to others, and resist driving with the intention of hogging the road. Defensive drivers acknowledge that areas that require merging tend to be extra dangerous. Driving defensively means yielding to others and sharing the road so that all surrounding vehicles do not have to participate in dangerous maneuvers to earn a spot in the lane.
In addition to yielding, defensive drivers are respectful and do not “hog” the left lane on highways. Lane hogs are dangerous and violate left lane laws on the books in most states.
4. Check blind-spots
Blind-spots are areas around your vehicle that aren’t easy to see just by a quick check in the mirrors. Being a safe driver requires more than checking your mirrors and using a directional, you must turn your head to check the area you plan on turning or moving into beforehand because you must account for those blind-spots. Defensive drivers refuse to only hope that there isn’t another vehicle or bicyclist in that area, instead they practice safe driving and confirm it’s clear before turning.
Here’s a quote from an actual driving manual:
“Many crashes occur because of improper turning, or turning without due care and attention. To make a safe turn you should: … 3. Check the “blind spot” in the direction you want to turn. Check your blind spot when pedestrians or bicyclists may be present.”
State of New Hampshire “Driver’s Manual”, DSMV 360 (Rev 09/13), Part Six, “Turning and Signaling”, page 34.
5. Communicate & Be Seen
Driving defensively requires showing other drivers in advance their intention to turn or change lanes by use of turn signals. Communication with other drivers is not easily accomplished. Other drivers can’t read your mind, know where you’re going or figure out what you intend to do. The best way to notify other drivers know so they can prepare to slow down, go around, or come to a stop is to use turn signals. When other drivers have to guess or suddenly stop or slow down without warning, the risk of an accident greatly increases.
Beyond alerting other drivers about intention, defensive drivers are guaranteed to be seen by using hazards when broken down and headlights between dawn and dusk, or during poor weather conditions. Being seen is a key factor for defensive drivers, because another vehicle cannot avoid hitting you if they cannot see you.
Driving Defensively Prevents Accidents & Saves Lives
Rushing on the roadways and ignoring the laws may earn you a ticket, or get you into a collision. As a licensed driver, there is a duty of care to adhere to while on the roads, and you owe it to other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians to drive while alert, focused, and cautious. No one can control other drivers on the road, but if you do your part and drive safely, the risk is significantly reduced.
Driving defensively brings obvious advantages. Hopefully you reduce the likelihood of getting into an accident yourself sparing yourself pain, trouble and money. Most auto insurance companies also reduce your auto insurance rates and offer other benefits the longer you go without having an accident.
If you have done everything right, but through no fault of your own, a negligent motor vehicle driver causes injury, the best course of action is to retain an experienced law firm to optimize your recovery and to fight an insurance company, whose interests are furthered by putting up Delay, Deny Defend tactics against your legitimate claim. Our office offers free initial consultations and will do all in our power to explain the process and answer your questions.
Model: Rebecca Langelier